Tour de France: Egan Bernal and Team Ineos are the mood killers
Slightly lost, Julian Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey leaned against his team's Quick-Step car. The 19th stage of the Tour de France on the Col de l'Iseran had just been stopped and the Frenchman realized that Egan Bernal had chased him the Maillot Jaune - just two days before the end of the tour. A little later, in the final destination Tignes, Alaphilippe could then laugh again, as his teammate Enric Mas took him piggyback and carried across the street.
"I'm exhausted, happy and proud of what I've achieved and what we've achieved with the team that was not designed to win," said Alaphilippe later.
Jeff Pachoud / AFP
For 14 days Julian Alaphilippe wore the yellow jersey - in the end he finished fifth
That was the special thing about the tour, which was as exciting as it was rare this year:
- It was most of the time determined by outsiders like Alaphilippe,
- the stage winners were not always the same
- Thibaut Pinot inspired the home fans at the Tourmalet,
- the dominance of Team Ineos crumbled to the end,
- In the end, between Tour winner Bernal and third-placed Steven Kruijswijk was just 1:31 minutes - the smallest gap since 2007.
Last time it was completely different. When Team Ineos had won six of the seven past France circuits under the name Team Sky, the winners Bradley Wiggins, Christopher Froome and Geraint Thomas wore the yellow jersey at the latest on the 14th stage. Then the Sky train stretched in front of the field, parried attacks of his opponents and drove confidently to victory in Paris.
Team Ineos and the crumbling dominance
This year, however, Team Ineos often pedaled only in the second row and let other teams work. With the injured four-time Tour winner Froome lacked the équipe one of their captains, last year's winner Geraint Thomas was not in good shape before the tour. Since the team could be almost happy in retrospect, that top talent Bernal had broken his collarbone in May during a training crash, so could not participate in the Giro d'Italia and could focus on the Tour de France.
6 imagesTour Champion Egan Bernal: The higher the better
In the future, the question of captains at Ineos will be even more exciting: will the 34-year-old Chris Froome, whose contract runs until 2020, soon pass? Will Geraint Thomas return to the role of a noble helper? The 22-year-old Bernal belongs after his tour triumph anyway the future. "This is the first title of many," said teammate Thomas. "Egan is improving all the time, born to go uphill fast, he's a phenomenal athlete, he has the best team around him and many great years ahead of him."
After the exciting tour in 2019, monotonous years could once again come to the Great Loop. Finally, Team Ineos would like to rebuild the old dominance with a captain Bernal and climbing helpers. Even without her, Ineos won the tour this year and took second place with Thomas. The team does not need to worry about the future thanks to good junior staff and the sponsorship of the billion dollar chemical company Ineos.
Movistar: Change of strategy in the captain question?
Ineos' competitor Movistar has meanwhile moved further away from the big tour triumph. For years, the Spanish team has been racing with top riders such as Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa. None of them has won the yellow jersey yet. Maybe because the team can not concentrate on one captain.
After the Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz last won the Giro, he could soon replace one of the tour captains. Nairo Quintana is apparently facing a move to French team Arkéa-Samsic, Mikel Landa's contract expires at the end of the year. The sixth placed of the tour has probably received no offer to extend. The Spaniards apparently want to reposition themselves, at least to make it back to the podium of the most important cycling race in the world. The old strategy did not work. It would be conceivable to set a captain again in the coming year.
Tom Dumoulin as Dutch hopefuls
Meanwhile, a new competitor is growing in the Netherlands, which could attack Ineos. Team Jumbo-Visma won four stages in the Tour, while in the mountains Laurens De Plus, George Bennett and third-placed Kruijswijk often led the peloton. In the coming year, the team could get prominent reinforcements. The Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, winner of the 2017 Giro and second in the 2018 Tour, is due to change to "Jumbo-Visma" according to "Cycling Weekly". Due to injury, the man of the German team Sunweb was missing in France in the past few weeks.
Gonzalo Fuentes / REUTERS
Often Jumbo-Visma led the peloton - and presented himself as a strong team
As with Ineos, Jumbo-Visma would also ask the captain question: Would the team drive for Dumoulin or Kruijswijk on the tour? Or for Primoz Roglic, who finished fourth in the Tour in 2018 and made the podium at the Giro in May? Whatever the Dutch decide, next year they will challenge Team Ineos again.
That is also the goal of the German top driver Emanuel Buchmann. After his fourth place in Paris, the 26-year-old wants to podium next year. "We have to see that we start with more mountain riders," said the captain of the German team Bora-hansgrohe: "If you want to be at the front, you need a super-strong team."
Who has that, could soon make the tour boring again.